Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Now out of all the animated sitcoms I’ve seen over the years, one stands out above the rest: Futurama. So in the fourth part of this poorly labelled trilogy I plan to show not only why the show was the best, but why it was also cancelled. So without further ado, lets begin.
Lets start with the most unique thing about Futurama: most if not all of the writers have degrees. And while this seems pretty standard, it’s what they have degrees in that is most relevant. Futurama is one of the few times a show has been written by a bunch of maths and science genius. And boy does it show. The easiest example to bring up is the fact that they invented an entire new mathematical proof to resolve the central problem in the episode. How many shows can boast that sort of dedication? Furthermore there are sites out there dedicated to pointing out the various math based jokes that can be found littering the series. However this would appear, at first glance, a bit of a paradox. How can I, an English student who stopped understanding maths the second letters got involved, enjoy a series whose jokes go way over my head? Well one answer is that I love dedication to a concept, regardless whether I get the joke or not. But there are far more important reasons than just that.
What I mentioned either a few days or months ago (depending where you’re reading this) I stated that one of the problems with The Simpsons was that it became an exaggeration of its former self. Now some will argue that that’s true of Futurama as well, that the characters ended up becoming a bit silly by series end. But I’d argue the opposite. As time went on the characters became more interesting, more refined. We learned more about them as they were greater characterised. Compare that to The Simpsons, who only lost their characters as time went on. Futurama kept evolving, kept pushing these characters, taking them to new and interesting places. For example, Fry and Leela’s relationship. On the one hand it is a bit frustrating that they had to reset the story every time the show got renewed, but on the flipside they didn’t lose everything. The characters still kept some of their development. Ultimately the show never stopped evolving its characters. It never reached a dead end, instead showing how they changed to fit what happened around them. But there is more to it than that, and there is a much bigger reason why I love this show.
My favourite episodes of Family Guy are always the ones featuring Brian and Stewie dealing with a science-fiction concept. Whether it be cloning or time travel, whenever the writers ventured into science-fiction I found it great. My favourite example of this was the episode ‘Back to the Pilot’, since it asked the obvious question: If you have the ability to travel back to the moment before you altered the past, why wouldn’t you? The answer: Because you end up doing it so much there’s hundreds of you running round in that exact moment. It’s a nifty science-fiction time-travel idea that’s never really been explored in fully. But why do I bring all this up?
Well because Futurama was the show that brought up all of these points and more with almost every episode. Some of my favourite episodes deal with complex concepts of science-fiction, presented in a humorous manner. For example, when faced with the concept of cloning, they rather cleverly explored the idea of ‘grey goo’, aka self-replicating nanites that eat and convert any matter into more nanites. Futurama explores this concept by having Bender be the grey goo. Another explores the concept of being God by having Bender be God then meeting God. It’s a rather clever little episode that says quite a lot on theology. It takes a lot of skill to take complex ideas and present them simply. Even the simple concept of time looping gets taken to hilarious extremes, where they show what you could actually do with a time loop device. Not to mention their love of science-fiction, best exemplified by the Star Trek episode Futurama has more love and soul than most TV shows out there.
So why was the show cancelled then? Twice, I should add. Well I think the biggest problem comes from the audience. We’re almost too stupid to really appreciate the show. That sounds mean, I know, but when you see stuff like 19 Kids and Counting and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo you really do have to wonder about the viewing habits of the general public. But, more than anything else, the show was almost too good for its own good. It didn’t (usually) go for lowbrow humour, instead trying to be cleverer with its jokes. And that’s where it goes wrong. In my experience, people don’t want to think when they watch TV. They want to shut their minds off. Cynical, I know, but it is somewhat truth amongst the viewing public. But can Futurama ever make a comeback? Well here’s hoping. It’d be great if they cancelled The Simpsons for this show, but we’ll see.
So there you have it. My look at Futurama and why I think it’s the best animated sitcom. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.